Residents of 3929 and 3931 Pine St., many of whom are Penn students, may be evicted next Friday on Oct. 26, according to a notice posted on the building and confirmed by Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspection.
A notice was posted on the doors of the building on Sept. 19 stating it was in “zoning” violation, making it illegal to occupy the building after 12:00 p.m. on Oct. 26. The sign remains posted, as of Oct. 14, College junior and 3929 resident Hannah Singer said.
The notice indicated that the building currently exceeds the 11-unit household threshold — five units at 3929 Pine and six units at 3931 Pine — surpassing occupancy laws for the property.
Karen Guss from the Department of Licenses and Inspection explained that there are two additional units located in the basement of the building.
The property is owned by Constellar Corporation, an apartment rental company situated at 4323 Spruce St.
Katie Simms, an Engineering junior living on the 3929 side, said she emailed the company after the sign was posted and received a response from Constellar’s employee Nicole Mejia, who said the company did not know what was happening and that it sent employees to Philadelphia City Hall.
"We understand this is an alarming experience and we want to reassure everyone that we continue to work with the city to resolve the issue; unfortunately, the city has made an error regarding their records of how a unit in the building is zoned, and it is taking time to resolve," Constellar wrote in an email to the residents in late September.
The next step for the company would either be to comply with the notice, removing the residents living in the two units in the basement, or, if the company thinks the government has made an error in issuing the violation notice, it can appeal.
As of Oct. 15, Guss said the company has not started the appeal process.
Guss also was not able to answer how government officials discovered the violation in the first place.
Constellar and Mejia did not respond to multiple requests from The Daily Pennsylvanian for comment by phone and email over the course of two weeks. When the DP called Constellar on Oct. 9, a representative declined to comment and refused to provide their name.
Emma Singer, Hannah's sister, has worked with a community development nonprofit organization that addresses zoning issues. Hannah elicited the advice of her sister, who looked over the lease and said she found nothing that alluded to zoning problems.
"The landlord didn't understand the zoning code," Emma Singer said. "They built too many units. It's pretty strict what you can or cannot build under a zoning code."
“It’s unclear if we will be able to get our last month’s rent or the security deposit back," Hannah Singer said.
Singer also wrote in a text message to the DP on Oct. 14, "It's all very [suspect] and uncertain still."
College junior Julie Baum, who lives on the 3931 side, said she was surprised to hear that the building had a zoning problem since two of the units in her building were still empty in September when she went to Constellar's office to hand in her rent check. The staff asked Baum if she had any friends who would want to live in the property as they were still looking for people to rent the space.
“I have no idea of what’s going to happen. I don’t even know how they are planning to address it," Baum said. "I am not really sure if I should be looking to find a new place to live to be honest.”
Simms said she and her roommates were confused and nervous by the sudden notice. She added that even if the company provided new housing to the current residents, she doesn’t want to move since she brought all the furniture in her bedroom.
“It’s frustrating because this company is not being very on top of everything and not being very responsible, but there’s nothing really we can do,” Simms said. “It feels like they can kind of take advantage of us and it’s fine because they’ll always have a demand of college students to rent from them. There’s really nothing we can do. They’re not really held accountable.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.